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Kampusch case to be reopened

Austria is set to reopen the investigation into the kidnapping of child kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch after her father launched a civil case against the man he says was involved in the abduction.

Natasha's father Ludwig Koch filed civil charges at the start of this month (8 March) for damages against the best friend of his daughter's kidnapper.

He took the unprecedented step of filing a civil case over the kidnapping because there was now a "mountain" of evidence against Ernst Holzapfel – the best friend of Wolfgang Priklopil - who snatched Natascha Kampusch off the streets when she was 10 and kept her in a cellar for eight years before she escaped in 2006.

The civil case six years after Natascha escaped was filed at the Vienna Civil Court (Landesgericht für Zivilrechtssachen Wien) demanding damages from Holzapfel, the closest and probably only friend of Wolfgang Prikopil.

Mr Koch is represented by the Vienna-based legal team of Dr Alfred Boran, Mag Dietmar Heck and Dr Kristina Venturini-Köck, who have supported him throughout the time since his daughter was released.

Lawyer Dietmar Heck said: "After going through the vast amount of material that has come to light one has to come to the conclusion, that Mr Koch has a good chance to prove Mr Holzapfel's involvement. We believe there is sufficient evidence to prove that Mr Holzapfel at the very least knew that his best friend, with whom he reportedly worked in the garden of his house in Strasshof with an excavator just before the kidnapping, was holding Natascha against her will - and did absolutely nothing to end her ordeal. By failing to act he extended the suffering of Natascha and her parents for more than 8 years. Mr Koch spent almost all his time and the little money he had searching in vain for his daughter."

The legal case on paper is about compensation for the suffering but Mr Koch stressed he did not care about the money - he said he did not believe justice had been done, he wanted to have the evidence tested in a court of law. He said he hoped the answers would bring him and his daughter closure on the subject - and a chance to move on.

He said: "I heard today that the justice ministry is planning to investigate the case again. However, given the track record so far, I intend to press ahead with the civil case.

"Her freedom has brought no release for any of us, far from it, there are more unanswered questions now than there were in 2006 and as Natascha's father I am now no longer prepared to allow this situation to go on.

"Whatever the outcome of that case one thing is already certain - whatever the circumstances, my daughter was and is the biggest victim. She should not be criticised for any of her statements or her actions made since her release. We hope this case will bring her, and us, final closure."

The government ordered an investigative committee to look at the case again which is set to hear the last witnesses this week, but the committee chairman Werner Amon has now announced in advance that he shares the view that there was not just a single kidnapper - and that others were involved.

Austrian media said that although the final report has not been handed over the new investigation was now a foregone conclusion after a statement from Amon.

He said: "Anybody who was hoping that our report would be the final chapter will be disappointed. That is something I can categorically rule out."

He said that the only question was how, adding: "We will either recommend that prosecutors look at it again or get new experts in to re-evaluate the evidence - but it will not now be dropped. There is a huge list of points that have just not been properly looked at."

He also claimed that he had not been given all of the evidence in the case.

Austrian Times


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